Learning the Spanish Language — Project Day 37

My ADSL began wobbling at the weekend and failed completely yesterday. As a consequence, I wasn't able to blog while studying Spanish and had to account for yesterday from memory.

One of the things I forgot were the topics covered in the Language Transfer exercises. I still don't remember them, but I do remember thinking to myself: "I should make notes on this". Now that I can make notes, I don't think I'll have the time.


However, while reading about language acquisition strategies, I was rather taken by the idea that self-evaluation is particularly effective — but not widely practiced.

My own experience of writing this blog seems to bear this out. I certainly seem less prone to repeat errors that I've analysed and described here, than those I've simply 'filed' as 'water under the bridge'. Although it, obviously, doesn't mean that I never repeat such errors.

Past Participle as Adjectives

Fortunately, there's quite a lot of continuity and frequent reminders in Language Transfer courses. So the first two exchanges today reminded me that one of yesteray's biggest themes was about deriving past participles from infinitives and adjectives from past participles.

But the part of the dialogue that I found most interesting was the description of when -ado/-ido endings on adjectives should or should not agree in number and gender with objects in the sentence.

I've not yet memorised those points, but I'm pretty sure they lie at the heart of many of my incidental errors during translation exercises.

Adjectives with Estar Agree in Number & Gender

Such adjectives are usually combined with 'estar' rather than 'ser' — there are exceptions. But in most cases, adjectives in the form of past participles are describing the state of something, e.g. finished, defeated, painted, etc.

Because they are describing the state of an object, they agree in number and gender with that object.

Exceptions with Ser — or Both Ser and Estar

Something that's complicated may be intrinsically complex, or it may become complicated. So 'complicado' is an example of a participle-adjective that can take 'estar' or 'ser'.

In the 'ser' case, it's describing an inherent, characteristic that's invariable — i.e. so the -ado ending never changes.

Should Have ― Ought to Have

Is expressed by stacking the conditional of 'deber' (deberia), then the infinitive of tense-changing version of 'to have' (haber), then the infinitive for the specified action, e.g. "(Yo) deberia haber cancelado"

If the object being acted upon is specified, it is stacked at the end, e.g. "Deberia haber cancelado mi pedido". — matching the English order.

But if the object is identified by a pronoun, the pronoun can either go first (e.g. "Lo deberia haber cancelado"), or as a suffix to haber (e.g. "Deberia haberlo cancelado") — neither matching the English order.

Could Have — Was Able To

Follows the same stacking pattern as 'should have', but starting with the verb for 'to be able to' — poder.

So "I could have cancelled my order" is rendered into Spanish as "Podría haber cancelado mi pedido". And a pronoun would subsitute for 'pedido' in exactly the same way — e.g. "Podría haberlo cancelado".


Morir is a bit of a special case. Whether it is expressed transitively or reflexively, it means exactly the same thing, e.g. "ha muerto" and "se ha muerto" are synonimous.

The adjectve form of the past participle is also a bit wrinkly. You'd think that being dead could be an invariable characeristic — but not for spanish speakers. For them it's always a state — always described with 'estar', and never 'ser''. Is this a god-botherer thing?

Abrir and Romper

Both Morir and Abrir are irregular verbs with convenient "sounds a bit like Italian" characteristics, i.e. they sound similar enough for the stem change to be guessable, once you know how 'o' and 'e' split under stress in Spanish — e.g. morto (ITA) vs. muerto (SPA) and aperto (ITA) vs. abierto (SPA).

In the case of past participles, those for rompere (ITA) vs. romper (SPA) sound very similar — you just have to remember that Spanish rarely doubles consonants and that Italian stresses both 't's.

Decir and Hacer

Their past participles form another memory-friendly sound pair — i.e. 'dicho' and 'hecho' have the same 'ch' sound. But they're obviously nothing like their Italian equivalents — detto and fatto.

Unless you are aware of the way that Spanish often substitutes 'h' for what would have been an 'f' in latin.

F to H transposition

So, hacer is the Spanish equivalent of 'faire' (FRE) and 'fare' (ITA). Connected to the English words facilitate, fact, factor, fabricate, etc, etc.

Hablar is another, less obvious, example. It's a bit more obvious, if you think of retelling, or talking about, a 'fable' (ENG), 'fable' (FRE) and favola (ITA).

Huir is another — fuire (FRE), flee (ENG), fuggire (ITA).

Hiero is cool one —ferro (ITA), fer (FRE), ferromagnetic (ENG). It's cool, because Spanish also has 'ferrocarril' for railway — ferrovia (ITA), chemin de fer (FRE). And 'herrero' for blacksmith — ferraio (ITA).

Hondo for deep — fondo (ITA), profond (FRE), profound (ENG).

Humo for smoke — fumo (ITA), fumée (FRE), to fume (ENG).

I need to research the G to W transposition — Guillermo vs. William vs. Guglielmo vs. Guillaume

Learning Tasks Checklist

Task M T W T F S S
Word/phrase aural+oral
Sentence aural+oral
Socratic aural+oral
Verb exercises
Pronoun exercises
Preposition exercises
Physical exercise
Non-subbed video
Subbed video
Research lang. learning
List 'issues'
Prepare materials

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